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Delayed Census Data Will Impact Redistricting by Ruth Kistler

Data from the 2020 Census used to apportion the number of seats each state will have in Congress was originally scheduled to be available 12/31/20, and redistricting data, used for redrawing congressional and legislative districts, was to be delivered to the states by 4/01/20. Largely because of COVID, the Census Bureau is unable to meet this schedule. On Jan. 27, 2021, the Census Bureau announced that apportionment data could be expected by 4/30/21, and that the delivery date for redistricting data was yet to be determined, but not before 7/30/21.

The Oregon Constitution (Article IV Section 6) assigns the primary duty of redistricting the state’s 60 House districts and 30 Senate districts as well as the state’s congressional districts to the Oregon Legislature. That section of the Oregon Constitution also sets July 1 as the deadline by which the Legislature must enact a redistricting plan for the state legislature. (The Oregon Constitution does not set a deadline for congressional redistricting.) This year, it will be impossible to meet the July 1 deadline. If the legislature fails to enact a plan by July 1, the task falls to the Secretary of State to draw up the electoral maps and give the public opportunity to review them, by a constitutionally specified August 15th deadline. That might be possible IF redistricting data is available on 7/30/21, but still highly questionable.

According to an article in the Oregonian 2/07/21, the Oregon House and Senate redistricting committees have “asked House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney to ‘explore potential legal options to remedy this situation,’ including asking the state Supreme Court to ex-tend a key deadline.” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan has hired her own redistricting administrator to work with the Legislature and prepare in case the job falls to the Secretary of State’s office.

This round of redistricting is expected to result in significant changes. There is a high probability Oregon will gain a sixth Congressional district. Census Bureau estimates show Deschutes County and Washington County population growing much faster than the rest of the state. Will we be able to adopt legislative district boundaries before Sept 9, 2021, when candidates can begin filing for election to the 2022 Legislature?

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